The romantic contretemps of a lovelorn woman (who writes the thought-balloons for photo-novellas) and her shy musician sister are explored with a light touch and bittersweet undercurrent in “You and Me.” Sophomore pic from 2002 Camera d’Or-winner Julie Lopes Curval (“Seaside”) uses the retro tableaux of illustrated romance mags to echo and embellish her characters’ feelings and aspirations, to sharp comic effect. Helmer has found a way to examine the doubts of thirtysomething professionals that feels fresh, while questioning the vestiges of the “some day my prince will come” mindset.
Thirty-four-year-old Ariane (Julie Depardieu) writes for the magazine You and Me, scripting formulaic tales of longing and romance. They’re centered on a woman who is mistreated only to win the loving respect of a good man — preferably one with lots of money.
While cogitating, Ariane pictures the actual photo-panels in their candy-colored staginess. Because she draws heavily from her own life — including those in her entourage — the characters strike wooden poses in her mind’s eye and onscreen. Device is a fun way to comment on the gap between fantasy and reality.
Ariane is involved with successful businessman Farid (Tomer Sisley), who’s clearly not the settling-down type. But she reads way too much into Farid’s every utterance, embroidering beyond reason, then griping when he doesn’t meet her manufactured expectations. While Ariane frets over Farid, Pablo (Sergio Peris Mencheta), a Spanish mason doing renovations in her apartment building, tries to court her.
Meanwhile, Ariane’s younger half-sister, Lena (Marion Cotillard), a classical musician, has her own romances.
While pic is relatively breezy, the photo-novella gimmick exposes the pitfalls of fairytale romantic notions and wishful thinking when they take the place of concrete actions. Narrative is also a pretty astute examination of how the same situation can look radically different from a male or female point-of-view.
Thesps are well cast, with Cotillard’s lovely and gifted but painfully ambivalent cellist particularly touching.